Trip to Israel changes 18 participants
Those who read the Bible learn about far-off places in Israel the Jordan River, the Sea of Galilee, Jesus' tomb. But most Christians have never seen those places, smelled the smells, touched the rocks or walked the same paths.
So when 18 travelers embarked on a Holy Land pilgrimage with Cameron Baptist Church Oct. 25 through Nov. 3, the scriptures came to life.
"Now I have a visual picture of the things I read about in the scriptures," said Mike Teel, pastor of Cameron Baptist Church. "It just brings the Bible to life for you."
It was the second trip for Cameron Baptist Church to take to Israel organized by Lee Carter, a church member, messianic Jew and volunteer with the Israeli Defense Force. But it was Carter's seventh trip to Israel and he has three reasons why he continues to return "home."
"First reason is to go and study and walk through God's word and study the scriptures," Carter said. "And the second reason is to take groups, bless Israel with their presence and also bless them by fulfilling the things that they've read through their Christian walk. And then I am also a volunteer with the Israeli Defense Force. ... And the first time I got off the plane, God said, 'Welcome home.'"
Before the travelers hopped on a plane to travel 10,000 miles to Israel, they started prepping a year before takeoff. On every other Friday, the group met for a Bible study and learned about the various sites they were going to see from creation to present and their significance, and they would celebrate all of the Jewish holidays. Teel said that helps the group because they learn about the sites' histories before they see them in person.
"We may not have seen them physically, but we have seen them in our minds already," Teel said. "He has already taken us through that whole sequence of things. And it's pretty good because we visit about four or five sites a day. We start early and we go late. It's not just a vacation; it's a pilgrimage. That's what he calls it. It's hard work. We walk around 10 miles a day."
The moment the plane landed in Israel, the country and everything encompassing it was different than what Teel anticipated. He said when people think of Israel, they typically imagine a dry and arid place, but the group headed north and discovered mountains and fields of crops lush and green reminding Teel of Lawton.
"The temperature was very similar to what you guys were experiencing here," Teel said. "It was warm and those kinds of things. And then once we got to the north, we started heading south and then you get into what you typically think of the arid parts of the country."
The group visited the Jordan River and baptized those who wanted to be baptized. Lynn Wyrick was among them. It was her second time on the trip and her second time to be baptized. But she doesn't remember where or when she was baptized first.
"I had never documented when I was baptized or where," Wyrick said. "I was in the military at that time so I asked Mike if he would baptize me over there; that would be real special. It was neat."
The group also waded in the Dead Sea, sailed on the Sea of Galilee, spent three days in Jerusalem, toured the World Holocaust Remembrance Center, ate in a re-creation of Abraham's tent, rode camels, visited Jesus' tomb, walked down the Via Dolorosa (the path Jesus walked to his crucifixion), took communion at the Garden of Gethsemane and visited many more places they'd read about in Scripture.
"There's just so many awesome sites," Carter said. "It just brings your Bible study alive."
The group also indulged in the many delicacies Israel had to offer, and the group was pleased with everything they ate, even if they didn't know what to call their dishes at times. After sailing the Sea of Galilee, or Lake Tiberias, where Jesus walked on water, the group had fish at a restaurant on the shore, which is around the area where Jesus used five loaves of bread and two fishes to feed 5,000.